After our road trip through Slovakia we arrived in Poland. One of the best places to cross the border to Poland is definitely through Slovakia. North Slovakia and the south of Poland share the same mountain range – Carpathians. And wherever there are mountains there is a specific culture of the region. In Poland in the Carpathians region – Podhale – you can find one of the most beloved polish ethnic groups – Górale. They speak their own dialect descended from Proto-Slavic languages (lots of “hej!” words added everywhere 🙂 ). Górale have a characteristic folk music based on the perfect fifth with the leading instrument being violin. Add to this beautiful traditional costumes and Zakopane Style architecture. You simply can’t miss it.
I crossed the Polish border for the first time in almost two years and the moment I saw the sign with Polish letters, I started to cry. And it was not just the fact that I hadn’t been in my country for so long, but as well that my daughter for the first time in her life could see her motherland. I asked Dario to stop the car and let us breathe the fresh Tatra Mountains’ air. I have to admit, I rarely remember crossing borders, especially now when there are barely any borders in EU, but this time it was different. We were finally home…
If you are visiting Podhale with your own car, we suggest you to stay not in Zakopane but in one of the smaller and not so famous villages close to it. It is cheaper plus you can escape the loud touristic atmosphere and enjoy the mountain views in peace. We stayed in Poronin, which is around 6 km from Zakopane. We rented a room with a bathroom in a very stylish wooden house. Our hosts were super friendly and made sure we and Zosia had everything we need.
There are many things you can do in Podhale. You have a big choice of walking and hiking tours. But if you are staying there for two days, your choice is limited. During our stay in Podhale we wanted to make a tour to Morskie Oko and later spent some time in Zakopane itself.
Morskie Oko is the largest and the deepest lake in the Tatra Mountains but the most important is that it is a legendary lake in Poland. There are many songs, poems, paintings picturing the lake; it was as well the favorite place of Polish Pope John Paul II. To reach the hiking route to Morskie Oko you first have to drive to Łysa Polana or Palenica Białczańska, that’s where you can park your car as well. If you are not travelling by car, you can take a bus. The best is to ask your hosts to provide you with up to date information about the connections and schedules.
The hike to Morskie Oko is more or less 10 km long and takes approximately 2 hours. The road is sealed so the walk itself is not a difficult one. There is as well an opportunity to take a horse carriage to the lake. But if you are physical able to walk such a distance, we highly recommend hiking. The views are simple breathtaking.
Foto: by parquetn
However, this time we had to skip the lake hike. When we arrived to Podhale it started to rain and temperatures dropped down. For the day we planned our hike to Morskie Oko the weather forecasts showed us snow and temperature below 0!!! At the end of June!!!! The perspective of changing diapers of our 8 months old daughter on the snow was simply crazy for us, so this time we had to change our plans.
Zakopane in the rain
One of the most famous attractions in Zakopane is Krupówki Street but I must say I enjoyed it more ten years ago, when it was not so commercial. Of course it was famous even then but you didn’t have ads everywhere and it was easier to focus on admiring the Zakopane Style architecture. Still it is fun to go through it. If you are looking for a more traditional form of entertainment you can visit some of the local museums: Tatra Museum and Zakopane Style Museum. There are as well a few wooden churches in Zakopane worth visiting.
When you are ready with sightseeing there is one more must do thing in Zakopane – the local market. The market lies close to Krupówki Street and you can find there everything connected with the region of Podhale: local souvenirs from wood or leather, leather clothes and accessories, beautiful sheepskin rugs, colorful traditional scarfs and of course local oscypek – local sheep cheese.
If the weather is good you should definitely try:
- visit the Tatra National Park
- climb Mount Giewont
- take a cable car to Mount Kasprowy
- check the view from Gubałówka
For more information we recommend: http://www.discoverzakopane.com/
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